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Friday, January 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Movie Review
'Big Bounce': Bikinis, backstabbing, blondness and blandness

By Mary Brennan
Special to The Seattle Times

Owen Wilson, left, with Morgan Freeman, is his usual oddly charming self in "The Big Bounce," but that hardly helps the hapless adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.
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"The Big Bounce" is based on a book by Elmore Leonard, the kingpin of the funny, tough-talking crime novelists; it has already been filmed once. I haven't seen that 1969 version, best known as Ryan O'Neal's big-screen debut, but by most reports it was an undistinguished adaptation.

Which makes one wonder why they wanted to remake it. But there isn't any point wondering things like that; one might as well wonder why Joe Lieberman keeps talking about his "Joementum." Anyway, this just in, they have remade "The Big Bounce." And this version is also undistinguished.

Like some of the best Leonard adaptations ("Get Shorty" springs to mind), "Bounce" takes place in a hot, sunny, brightly colored landscape. Hawaii, this time, with big surf and bikinis everywhere in the background. There's a convoluted story about an attempted heist, interwoven with various twists and backstabbings.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer

"The Big Bounce," with Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Sara Foster, Charlie Sheen. Screenplay by Sebastian Gutierrez. Directed by George Armitage. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and nudity, violence and language. 86 minutes. Several theaters.

It's very complicated, but not very interesting. Owen Wilson stars as Jack, an affable small-time crook who meets Nancy (Sara Foster), a leggy, calculating young blonde who persuades him to take part in her long-planned scheme. The target of the robbery is her lover, an unpleasant construction tycoon named Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise, looking even more pinched than usual).

Ray shuttles Nancy between his oceanfront McMansion and a hunting lodge in the hills, depending on whether or not his wife (Bebe Neuwirth, whose brief appearance near the end of the film is one of the few pleasant surprises on tap) is home.

Charlie Sheen turns up as Ray's not-too-bright henchman, who's supposed to keep tabs on Nancy, and Morgan Freeman plays a friendly local judge whose motives are murky. Willie Nelson and Harry Dean Stanton, looking between them like about a thousand miles of bad road, put in small performances as pals of Freeman's.

For all its twists and turns, "Bounce" never really goes anywhere. It has a jarring, cobbled-together, much-edited feeling.

There are frequent lapses in tone and logic, and never any real suspense. In one grocery-store scene, Nancy appears to be shoplifting a pineapple, but instead of being funny, it's just baffling, like much of what happens. Why? Who cares?

Part of the problem is Foster, who achieves the same degree of blondness as Paris Hilton, and about the same level of charisma. She can't hold the screen with the wacky Wilson, who is surely one of the most oddly ingratiating leading men ever. And while I don't think it's possible to make an Owen Wilson movie that's utterly charmless, this one comes pretty close, with only a handful of scattered amusing moments.

The best thing to be said about "The Big Bounce" is that it's mercifully brief. Or, as I overheard the woman behind me telling her companion as they left the theater, "I would have walked out, but there wasn't time."

Mary Brennan:


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